Chicago’s New Elected School Board Process + Why It’s Important to Have Equity Representation

In 2021, legislation was passed to turn Chicago’s mayor-appointed school board into a fully-elected school board, opening the path for more equity-minded and diverse representation among the people responsible for making decisions on behalf of Chicago’s students and families. That election is less than a year away. Although some of the parameters surrounding the election are still undecided - parameters such as how many board members will be voted in this year and whether non-citizens will be allowed to vote - it remains imperative that community members who will lead with an equity mindset run for school board in November 2024. Here are the top reasons why this matters.

School funding decisions affect all Chicago school communities and property owners

Chicago’s school board makes many decisions that directly impact students and their families. But there is one that affects all homeowners in Chicago - school funding. With a $391 million deficit projected for next school year as federal COVID-19 funding runs out, property owners can expect a rise in property taxes to help offset the deficit. However, even that is not projected to be enough. The next school board will have the power to explore solutions to bring in more money and decide on where cuts need to be made in order to address these financial shortages. Making these decisions without equity in mind risks neglecting the segments of the population most at risk and on the fringes.

School board decisions have lasting effects

In 2013, Chicago’s mayor-appointed school board voted to close 50 schools across the city citing low enrollment, poor academic performance and cost savings. These closings came with a promise of better academic outcomes and schools for the students affected and closed buildings turning into community assets. Over 10 years later, recent studies have found those promises were not kept and leaders did not keep track of the results. This example shows how a decision made by a school board can have a lasting impact, especially when there are no checks and balances. According to the article linked above, the conditions right now are similar to 10 years ago when the decision was made to shut dozens of schools. If it became necessary to close more schools or enact other measures that will have long-term effects, a school board with an equity mindset is necessary.

A representative board for all students is needed

This is the first time in Chicago’s school board history that those who sit on the board will be elected by students’ families and the school community. Why is this important? Board members who have an equity mindset will factor in the needs of every child, their families, and school teachers and staff when weighing important decisions like those mentioned above and more, especially those on the margins of these decisions. Deciding where to allocate and cut funds matters for student outcomes. Ensuring oversight when decisions and promises are made aids in seeing those promises realized.

Join us for Chicago's First EVER Elected School Board 101 event! It's a groundbreaking online gathering where we'll delve into the exciting realm of educational governance. Happening on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 at 7:00 PM CST, this event is a must-attend for anyone passionate about the future of Chicago's schools.

We will review:

  • the responsibilities of a school board and it’s members
  • what it means to campaign in chicago
  • what supports Lee can offer to those interested in learning more

And if you’re ready to directly impact the future of children in Chicago, reach out to us to learn more about running for one of the board member seats this year and how we can support you along the way.

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